School and bin strikes suspended after new pay rise tabled by councils

Industrial action by waste workers and school staff were planned for next week.

Councils table new pay offer after talks with Sturgeon ahead of strikes iStock / Katie Lee Arrowsmith via SWNS

Trade unions representing council workers across Scotland have received a new pay offer following emergency talks chaired by Nicola Sturgeon.

Unison, GMB and Unite have confirmed strikes next week in cleansing and school services have been suspended as they prepare to recommend the latest deal to their members.

Discussions with COSLA leaders resumed on Friday morning after Thursday’s meeting ran late into the evening.

The new deal will see a bump of £2,000 for workers earning up to £20,500 – meaning a 10% rise for most.

The new deal will see a bump of £2,000 for workers earning up to £20,500 – meaning a 10% rise for most.

Those earning between £20,500 and £39,000 will receive £1,925. Higher earners will be given a 5% increase with a cap of £3,000 for those being paid more than £60,000.

Staff will also receive an extra day holiday and work a shorter week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hosted talks at St Andrew's House.STV News

The First Minister said it was a “good offer” as she thanked both COSLA and the unions for their part in negotiations.

Sturgeon said workers deserved a fair pay deal in “these really difficult times” but warned that the total cost of £600m would mean cuts elsewhere.

“There is no bottomless pit of money,” she told STV News.

“When we’ve said there was no unallocated money that was correct. Reaching this point will mean the Scottish Government has to take money from other parts of our budget to fund this.

“There is no bottomless pit of money”

Nicola Sturgeon

“But we judge this as important. Council workers across the country provide vital public services and they are doing so at a time of soaring inflation and, like everybody else, struggling to make ends meet.”

Sturgeon said the deputy first minister John Swinney, who is also acting finance secretary, would outline the Government’s financial plans next week.

“Something’s got to give, we’re going to have difficult decisions to make,” the First Minister warned.

Unison’s head of local government Johanna Baxter said: “It has taken eight months and the industrial might of Unison members in schools and early years and waste and recycling workers to drag £600m out of Scottish government and COSLA and into the pockets hardworking people.

“COSLA originally offered 2%, then 3.5%, then 5% – we now we have £600m on the table, which is a 7.5% increase to the total pay bill and 87% of our council workers will receive fully consolidated increases between 5% to 10%.”

Further strikes by waste workers were planned for next week, with staff at a number of local authorities expected to walk out for eight days.

Workers in schools and early years learning were also to take part in a three-day strike in some areas. However, Scotland’s largest union has announced its action has been suspended.

Councillor Katie Hagmann COSLA’s resources spokesperson thanked the trade unions for the “constructive” discussions.

“The revised offer made shows that Scotland’s council leaders have listened to the concerns of our workforce and have responded positively,” she said.

“Council leaders have said consistently throughout these negotiations that we very much value and are grateful to the local government workforce.

“We have sent letters to our union colleagues following today’s meeting and hope that this enables strike action to be suspended and allows our workforce to get back to doing what they do best, delivering high quality essential services for the people within our communities right across Scotland.”

Having received the new offer, committees of union representatives will discuss whether to accept it or not.

The First Minister personally intervened in talks with local authority leaders and unions on Thursday amid mass strikes across council services.

Previously, Sturgeon said all options in making more funding available amid ongoing strikes have been “exhausted”.

The previous COSLA offer included a minimum pay uplift of £1,925, based on a 37-hour working week, matching the offer made to local government in England.

Deputy first minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government would provide a further £100m to local government for 2022-23 to support the cost of living payments being offered as part of the pay award on top of £140m already allocated.

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